KINGSTOWN, ST. VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES; TUESDAY DECEMBER 18, 2018 – Questions are being asked quietly by a number of persons both in the public and private sectors respectively, as to why the St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ Labour Commissioner, have not followed the protocols as laid out in the Protection of Employment Act #20 of 2003, in bringing about a settlement to a dispute between the former media officer, and the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Football Federation.
For months a dispute have been quietly raging between the former media officer and his former employers – the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Football Federation. The dispute centers on the failure of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Football Federation to follow the ‘letter of the law’ in employment procedures; the procedure that his termination was effected; and a number of other offences committed, all in violation of the Protection of Employment Act.
Officials of the affiliates of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Football Federation are themselves concerned this dispute is and will have on the image of the organisation, mere months after FIFA imposed a ban on the former president, ushering in the darkest moment in the local Federation’s history.
At a discussion on Saturday November 24, 2018, President of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Football Federation Marvin Fraser, told representatives of affiliated clubs/teams, that following a meeting with the former media officer and labour officers, and based on representations by the labour officers regarding notice of termination, the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Football Federation paid the former media EC$1,500.00 in lieu of notice.
A member of a law firm in Kingstown points out “this is not payment for offences committed by the Football Federation, nor settlement of the dispute.
“Did the Labour Officers advise the complainant and the accused correctly?
“For if there is any subsequent misunderstanding, as I understands there is, then the office of the Labour Commissioner must bear all the blame.”
The lawyer, who requested anonymity, explained that the Conciliation Hearing should have taken place after an investigation was carried out, which would have placed the Labour Officers in a position to properly guide both parties towards arriving at a settlement. Such an investigation would have armed them with all of the relevant facts, clearing the air of any ambiguity.
As a consequence, the absence of an investigation and its subsequent report, has left both the president and officers of the Football Federation, “to believe that they have done nothing wrong.”
An official of one of the affiliates of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Football Federation has admitted that neither the president nor the general-secretary, has been able to give any clear reason for the dismissal of the media officer.
The official said, “Mr. Poyer and Mr. Marvin have not told us why the media officer was not given a job letter or to sign the contract, what reasons to fire him, and if a hearing was given before the media officer was fired.”
He added that “all they were told is what may have been said at the meeting with the labour officers.”
But the question remains: have all the full story been told?
The Labour Officers at the October 02, 2018 Conciliation Hearing were Ms Eloise Exeter and Ms Susan Clarke. Based on a number of statements made by the president, the two officers recommended that at this time, the former media officer must be paid his lieu of notice, as it relates to the notice pay schedule in the Protection of Employment Act.
At that October 02, 2018 Conciliation Hearing, the labour officers told Mr. Fraser and Mr. Poyer that “You had to give Mr. Henry an employment letter.”
When Mr. Devron Poyer, the General-Secretary of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Football Federation, asked: “Were we bound to give him a disciplinary hearing?” the labour officer responded – “Yes, you had to give Mr. Henry a disciplinary hearing.”
The afore-mentioned lawyer said that “these two statements by the labour officers is one indication of the offences committed by the Football Federation. Therefore, the rest of the complaint should have been investigated. Why did it take four months after the complaint was filed to hold a Conciliation Hearing, but no investigation was carried out during that time?”
He agreed that the dismissal of the media officer was carried out without merit. “Something is wrong, and the office of the Labour Commissioner must take the necessary action now.”
He contends that the dispute is yet to be settled because “there are still parts of the complaint which the office of the Labour Commissioner have not investigated, leaving all without clarity as to the offences committed by the Football Federation, and the actions to be taken.”
The lawyer then asked: “How can a report from a Conciliation Hearing be the basis for determining the settlement of a dispute? Where is the report out of the investigation which would have clearly showed the number of offences as committed by the Football Federation? Why asked the aggrieved party to submit a complaint to the DPP’s office, which is not the office such should be lodged.
“So instead of carrying out their work, they are asking the offended party to do their work for them. The approach to arriving at a settlement in this matter is totally wrong, and is an insult to justice, and the objectives of the framers of the Act.”
The lawyer who took time to read all documentation of the dispute to “satisfy my curiosity”, was not happy with the actions of the office of the Labour Commissioner, currently occupied by Ms Arlene Lewis.
“I have clients to represent before the office of the Labour Commissioner, so I will be very restrain in what I am going to state,” the lawyer said. “Your matter and others before it, have exposed an issue which affects both employee and employer. There is always an issue when it comes to investigating complaints.
“It is the duty of the office of the Labour Commissioner to investigate all complaints, and submit findings to the Attorney-General for action to be taken.
“For the office of the Labour Commissioner to write you and tell you to report the matter to the DPP, is wrong and most embarrassing. The Protection of Employment Act is clear in stating what is to be done, how it is to be done, and by whom.”
He then asks: “Is that because there was no employment letter given to the media officer that has the president and general-secretary thinking that they did no wrong?”
Meanwhile, an affiliate official said that there are questions which concerns them, and must be answered by the general-secretary. “Can he state what answers he gave to the media officer on two occasions regarding the application he received?”
Now that this matter has been brought officially to the attention of affiliates of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Football Federation, the official asked: “Will Mr. Devron Poyer, tell the affiliates what answer did he give – verbally and in writing, to the media officer?”
A trade union official said that he and his executive are keenly following the developments of this case. “Already the incapacities of the office of the Labour Commissioner have been exposed; a failure to address the matters as reported, and a willingness to accept statements without seeking verification, is not what is needed.
“The office of the Labour Commissioner must protect all employees, must give guidance to all employers, but must not deviate from enforcing and implementing the labour laws, for this is what they are employed to do.”
He added that “as long as the office of the Labour Commissioner fails to take the necessary action as dictated in the law, then a mockery of the law entails.
“The office of the Labour Commissioner by their actions will determine if there is any collusion, or a deliberate plan, to prevent justice from taking its course.”